Pritzker’s election as governor tops big night for Democrats

November 7, 2018 GMT
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Democratic gubernatorial candidate J.B. Pritzker, right, looks at supporters after he was elected over Republican incumbent Bruce Rauner in Chicago, Tuesday, Nov. 6, 2018. (AP Photo/Nam Y. Huh)
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Democratic gubernatorial candidate J.B. Pritzker, right, looks at supporters after he was elected over Republican incumbent Bruce Rauner in Chicago, Tuesday, Nov. 6, 2018. (AP Photo/Nam Y. Huh)

CHICAGO (AP) — Democrat J.B. Pritzker capitalized on Republican Gov. Bruce Rauner’s unpopularity and disfavor with GOP President Donald Trump to be elected Illinois governor and lead an overwhelmingly victorious ticket in Tuesday’s election.

Declaring, “We make no small plans,” the 53-year-old billionaire heir to the Hyatt Hotel fortune, who largely self-financed a campaign to his first elective office, rode to victory over a first-term incumbent whose legacy will be his role in a record-long budget standoff with a Democratic-controlled Legislature.


Greeting supporters, Pritzker invoked the theme of a state rising above hardship and long odds, from rebuilding Chicago after the 1871 fire to catapulting home-state hero Barack Obama to become the first black president.

“That is Illinois, full of light that comes from the people who endure and overcome struggle,” Pritzker said. “That light brought triumph tonight.”

The triumph appeared complete. Democratic incumbents retained the posts of secretary of state, comptroller and treasurer, and state Sen. Kwame Raoul bested Republican Erika Harold for the open attorney general’s post. Democrats expected to retain healthy majorities in the state House of Representatives and Senate and picked up two seats on Capitol Hill as Democrats Sean Casten and Lauren Underwood ousted veteran GOP Reps. Peter Roskam and Randy Hultgren, respectively.

It was an appropriate outcome, Pritzker said, for a party in which immigrants and minorities and women help build a “bigger table.”

“Who we are is how we overcome our biggest challenges,” Pritzker said. “We ... recognize that there is grace and courage and pride in the struggle to rise. And ladies and gentlemen, rise we will. We make no small plans for the state of Illinois.”

Rauner, a 61-year-old former private equity investor whose campaign bravado four years ago included the contention that a government shutdown might be in order to get Illinois back on track, became only the fourth Illinois governor since 1900 to win and serve just one four-year term before being ousted. Incumbents lost in 1912 and 1972, and a sitting governor was defeated in a 1976 primary.

Rauner, who will be best remembered for engaging with legislative Democrats in the longest state budget stalemate in the U.S. since the Depression, resulting in billions of dollars in debt, conceded the race less than an hour after polls closed. He said he wished Pritzker “Godspeed” and promised a smooth transition, but retained a dose of vitriol for Democratic “machine” politics he often railed against.


“But things are changing. We saw that in our four years of principled fighting to bring sanity to our fiscal affairs and balance to our politics,” Rauner said. “The people of Illinois will not settle for the status quo. The people of Illinois are so much better than the political machine that constantly has let us down.”

It was a battle of wealthy titans spending their way through one of the costliest races for governor in U.S. history. In a 2010 race in California, $280 million was spent. Combined, the candidates in the Illinois race had raised $259 million by late last week.

Pritzker raised $176 million. The $171 million he chipped in from his own pocket is the most ever by a U.S. gubernatorial candidate. Rauner raised $79 million and Republican state Sen. Sam McCann, the Conservative Party candidate who billed himself as a conservative alternative to Rauner, brought in $4.8 million.

Aside from the race for governor, the most closely watched campaign was that to replace popular Democratic Attorney General Lisa Madigan, who chose not to seek a fifth term.

Raoul, who was appointed to the Illinois Senate in 2004 to replace U.S. Senate-bound Obama, pledged to fight Trump as attorney general, saying the president’s agenda will hurt the environment and undermine a woman’s right to an abortion.

“We reject the hate that has come from Donald Trump ... (and) the policies that come from them,” he told supporters.


O’Connor reported from Springfield.


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